Making a Difference: Drug Free Collier reports that teen drug use on a decline

Any use of drugs by our young people is unacceptable. Sad but true though, we know the reality is that teens are abusing drugs. But there is some good news to be found in the latest Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey which shows an overall reduction in local teen substance abuse.

The headline for the survey should actually read: “Drug use among teens in Collier County is down.” The survey, released by Drug Free Collier, reports prevalence rates for Collier County students in grades 6 through 12 are at the lowest levels since 2008.

For high schoolers, alcohol use is reported to be 29.6 percent but down from 44.6 percent in 2008. Use of marijuana, at 16.4 percent, is down from 17.9 percent in ’08. And abuse of prescription pills, at 7.2 percent, is down from 12 percent. Local middle school students showed even greater reductions, according to survey results.

Again, substance abuse by anyone, especially our kids, should not be tolerated. But while illegal drug use persists, Drug Free Collier’s Executive Director Melanie Black shares her belief that “Drug Free Collier stands as the best hope we have for preventing the use of drugs by the young people in Collier County.”

Black points to the C.O.R.E. Society as one way Drug Free Collier is working to make that happen.

“C.O.R.E., an acronym for Character, Opposing Drugs, Responsible Choices and Expectations, is a social club for students in our middle and high schools,” Black said. “There’s only one requirement for membership: The student must commit to being drug free.”

There are 10 C.O.R.E. Societies in existence here in Collier County boasting more than 400 student members. “They’re hard at work trying to change perceptions about drug use in their fellow students while offering drug free alternatives and the support needed to maintain a healthy and safe lifestyle,” Black said. “The hope is that all students will become responsible, drug and alcohol free citizens after hearing the message that everyone is not doing it.”

Given the results of the latest survey, some students are listening as the declining numbers would indicate.

Black is especially proud of a new Drug Free Collier initiative called Hidden in Plain Sight. It’s an interactive display designed in collaboration with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.

“By walking through a simulated child’s bedroom, parents learn to identify objects that might provide critical insights about risky behavior. Among the typical bedroom clutter are more than 100 items that could signal potential drug use or other harmful if not illegal activities,” she said. “Parents learn what to look for and where to turn for help.”

One of the programs that’s been around the longest is Operation Medicine Cabinet, which was created and trademarked by Drug Free Collier to ‘take back’ unused prescriptions in the household.

Every day, right here in Collier County, young adults and even children are experimenting with prescription drugs they find in an unlocked medicine cabinet at home or at grandma’s house. Operation Medicine Cabinet sheds light on how improperly stored household medications can end up in the wrong hands and harm lives.

Since the program began in 2007, Operation Medicine Cabinet has collected more than 7,000 pounds of unused medications for safe disposal. There are now 11 permanent drop off sites located across the county, but from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 26, the sites will be manned by volunteers standing by to help.

To find the site nearest you, or to learn about the wonderful work being done by Drug Free Collier, visit, send an email to or call 239-377-0535.